I couldn’t believe it. All because I bummed a cigarette from some Americans at a rest stop? My passport, laptop, and my tefillin (given to me by my deceased grandfather) were all on that bus, and as I stood there watching the bus pull away without me, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really happening.
I have been in Israel for about two weeks now visiting my siblings who live here, and spending some time in this magical country. This past Wednesday, I followed my instincts and took a 2 day trip up north to Tsfat (Safed). The city, known as the city of Kaballah, is considered the “most mystical city in all of Israel”. Tsfat has a special place in my heart, and I have had some really interesting experiences there over the past 10 years.
I decided stay at Ascent of Safed, a quasi youth hostel with cheap beds, and the ability to earn money off of the stay by attending classes geared towards those who are searching for something spiritual. The room was nothing fancy, but it suited my needs, and was situated right next to a large porch/courtyard with a great view of Mount Meron where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar (Chief work of Kabbalah) is buried.
My time spent there was perfect. Everything seemed to fall in to place, and I enjoyed every minute of my stay. All the people that I met, and the experiences that came to pass just seemed so right, but alas Friday came, and it was time to make my way back down south.
I am not a morning person, but in this case I had no choice but to wake up early. In order to make it back in time for the Sabbath, I had to make the 9:03am bus number 982 from the central bus station in Tzfat to Jerusalem for the 4 hour ride. I boarded the bus a few minutes before 9, and grabbed an empty window seat towards the back of the bus. The inter-city Egged buses in Israel are equipped with free wifi so I immediately pulled out both my headphones, and my laptop, and as soon as the bus started moving I got to work. As we made our way down the mountain the bus made a few stops and filled up quickly. I went through my usual work routine of checking emails, and affiliate applications, but I also spent a considerable amount of time responding to a Facebook message (The importance of this will be made clear in a bit). About an hr in to the ride the wifi started acting up, and my laptop battery was dying so I put it away, and pulled out my Droid to watch a movie (Back-up plan on a ride is key). At about 2 hours in to the ride the bus made the customary stop at a rest area/gas station in Afula, and I could not wait to get out and stretch my legs.
As I walked towards the store I noticed two gentlemen speaking in English, and smoking cigarettes. I have quit smoking about 12 times this year, but I decided that after a spiritual visit to Tsfat, it would be o.k. to bum one cigarette and talk to two Americans who were traveling the country. I kindly asked for a cigarette in English, and after I lit up started talking to my new friends. Then it happened. While deep in conversation I noticed a bus start to pull away. On the way up to Tsfat the bus had stopped for 15 minutes, and it was only 5 minutes after we had parked. That couldn’t be my bus. Could it? I took a second look, and lo and behold it was definitely my bus pulling away.
I couldn’t believe it. All because I bummed a cigarette from some Americans at a rest stop? My passport, laptop, and my tefillin were all on that bus, and as I stood there watching it pull away without me, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really happening. At that point there were a few thoughts going through my head: 1) The next bus from Tsfat leaves at around 11:00 meaning I would have to wait two hours to get a ride to Jerusalem, and I might not be able to make it to my destination in time for the Sabbath. 2) Should I just take the bus these other kids were on heading back to Tzfat? Was this a sign? 3) Laptop, passport etc. is all replaceable if need be, but my tefillin given to me by my grandfather are not.
A day earlier I had visited the grave of Nachum Ish Gam Zu the Teacher of Rabbi Akiva – whose name Gam Zu (This too) was bestowed upon him because in every situation no matter how dire, he would always say “gam zu letova” this too is for the best. While I was there I wondered what is the greatness behind such a person? I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I realized that it seemed that I was going to be given a real life opportunity to truly understand what it means to say this too is for the best.
I tried chasing the bus down, but I had no chance. I am fast, but buses with engines are faster. I walked around looking for another bus headed towards Jerusalem, while talking on the phone with my brother trying to get the number for the bus company. Unfortunately it seemed there were no buses heading towards Jerusalem. All of a sudden bus 982 from Tzfat to Jerusalem pulled in. At first I thought my bus had returned, (how could they leave an American?) but it was actually a second bus on the same route. It was odd because I was informed that there was only one bus from Tsfat to Jerusalem every two hours, but I didn’t think to question it at the time. I got on the bus and showed the bus driver my ticket from the first bus, and he said I could ride with them to Jerusalem. While I waited for everyone to re-board I made contact with the bus company, and was informed that the lost and found in Jerusalem is not open on Friday, and that I would have to wait until Sunday to retrieve my belongings if they ended up there and were not stolen. I was concerned for my tefillin again, but not worried or afraid. Everything happens for a reason.
I made my way towards the back of the bus, and since all the seats were filled, grabbed some empty floor space, and sat for two hours. Upon arrival in Jerusalem, I was grateful that I made it in time, and was confident that things would work out. I got off the bus and was walking towards the station when all of a sudden I heard someone yelling at me in Hebrew from behind. I turn around and the bus driver from the second bus is running at me with my knapsack containing my laptop, and my passport (tefillin were in another bag on the top rack on the bus). I said to him in hebrew that I had another bag and he responded “this is all that he gave me” and ran back on the bus and drove away.
At that point I was thoroughly confused, but quite grateful. Somehow the bus driver from the second bus I was on ended up with my knapsack, and gave it to me. How the heck did this happen? I called my brother to relay the story, and he suggested that maybe the bus driver realized his mistake and didn’t want to get yelled at for ditching an American so when my bus pulled up behind theirs (which I may not have seen b/c I was on the floor of the back of the bus) the driver of the first bus gave it to the driver of the second bus? It seemed like a totally viable option, and I accepted it for what it was. I checked the bag and made sure everything was there, after my brother urged me to do so, and then made my way towards the station so I could catch the next bus to my sisters apartment located in a different part of Jerusalem. I picked my brother and his wife up in Jerusalem about two hours later in a rental car, and decided to enjoy the Sabbath, and not question the things that happen in this country.
After the Sabbath I arrived back at my sisters at around 10:30pm and booted up my computer and noticed that I had a Facebook message from a person I did not know. The message said: “hi did you missed the bus to Jerusalem and lost your lagage on the bus? pls call my son 052-xxx-xxxx” I had my brother in law respond to the message, and let her know that yes I did, but got one bag back that I had left on the bus and was wondering if her son knew where the second bag was. She responded: “i know that he found your tefilin so we could found you on fb/ try tomorrw morning or write me your cell number”
At this point all I could do was smile once more, thank g-d, and get a good nights sleep before calling the number in the morning.
After speaking to the very nice guy, and now my new friend Yisrael, whose number was in the Facebook message, I learned the following:
1) My tefillin were safe by his father in law’s house in Jerusalem
2) After leaving the rest stop, at some point in between there and Jerusalem the original bus that I was on had an oil leak and broke down. He had opened my bag to find a phone number for me, but found medicine, and at that point was concerned that if I did not get the medicine before the Sabbath the consequences could be terrible.
3) He only found my tefillin later on. (They were in a bag on the top rack of the bus not on the seat with my knapsack)
4) He had remember that I used Facebook on the bus, and then asked his mother who has a facebook account to find someone named Daniel Moshe (the hebrew name written on my tefillin bag).
5) Apparently the bus driver announced that the stop was for 5 min., but I had my headphones on and thanks to Bose could not hear a thing.
1) When I asked Yisrael how he got my knapsack to the bus driver of the second bus, it seems that one of two following sequences of events happened (his English was not great):
The first bus broke down near a stop, and when my bus came by Yisrael handed my knapsack to the driver of my bus, and told him that he needs to get it to me before the Sabbath because it’s a life and death situation.
He handed the knapsack to the driver of the first bus, and said he had to make sure to get it to the driver of the other bus, because it is a life and death situation.
2) I still have no idea where this second bus 982 came from. When I spoke to the bus company I was told the next bus was not until 11, and they were unaware of a second bus. My sister in law (Israeli) called as well and was told that I would have to wait at the rest stop until the 11am bus made it there.
I know the following to be true:
1) If I had not used Facebook on the bus, and I may have never seen my tefillin again.
2) If I had heard the five minute announcement, and made that first bus, I would most likely not have made it to my final destination for the Sabbath on time, or have been able to pick up my brother and sister in-law.
3) There are so many ways this could have gone (more?) wrong, but it did not.
Some might say that this is a story of incredible luck, and it pays to stay positive because you never know what is going to happen. While I agree with the latter part of that statement I also believe there is more to this story than just luck. There are times in our lives where we are graced with an opportunity to see clearly that there is a higher power at work. Where it can be so blatantly obvious that everything in life happens for a reason. At that point it’s up to us as a function of our free will to either recognize it as the work of a higher power, or ignore it, and write it off as a fluke accident or just plain old luck. I am not old and wise*, nor would I ever want to force my ideals on someone else, but regardless I can speak from my own experience – Spiritual growth and connecting to a higher power has brought me more lasting happiness, and peace of mind than any monetary, or other physical gain/pleasure that I have ever experienced in this world, and I am extremely grateful for this experience, and for all I have experienced in my life up until now.
*The tag on the site is honesty and wisdom, but in this case I offer only an honest opinion, and not one from acquired wisdom that comes with old age.